Opening match

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VS.

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KEY MATCHUPS
SEPTEMBER 7, 2008

The Bengals.com roundtable convenes after a harried offseason, where it picked up another one along the way and where it concluded despite the madness and being on the road, Cincinnati has the edge in the opener against a Ravens team trying to find its footing with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback.

The Scout, the new pickup who works a couple of different pro leagues, picks the Bengals in large part because of the instability of the Ravens offensive line.

The Guru, a former top football executive for a couple of NFL clubs, thinks the Bengals defense is going to be much better with new coordinator Mike Zimmer.

"You just can't go off anything that happens in the preseason, particularly with the Bengals offense," The Guru says. "They haven't had their receivers and that's so much of their game. To me, you can't go off anything that happens in the preseason. Nothing. Detroit went 4-0, right?"

The Chief, a personnel director for a team not in the Bengals division, says the Cincinnati defense is getting an Opening Day gift.

"Their defense couldn't have hoped for a better matchup," The Chief says. "Rookie quarterback. Shuffled offensive line. Banged-up back. If they struggle against this offense, it's going to be a long year."

The Scout says it's all about tempo.

"The Bengals can't let (Ravens quarterback) Joe Flacco come out and hit the first three or four passes and let him get comfortable," The Scout says. "The Bengals score on them early it's a much different game than if Baltimore is still hanging around at halftime or the third quarter. They've got to come out and match what Baltimore does physically."

WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
* center>RB Chris Perry vs. Ravens ILB Bart Scott*

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Perry

Picking up the blitz is going to be as important as running the ball. This Ravens defense has the third most sacks in the NFL since 2005, so if the Bengals protect as poorly as they did against the Saints, it will be game, set, match.

"He's the guy that really makes them go," The Guru says. "He plays hard and with great leverage. They're going to have to give help to the center to double him."

This joust between the two former Arizona State practice partners has worked in the Bengals' favor. Since Suggs came into the league a year after Jones in 2003, he's got the fifth most sacks in the NFL with 45. Five have come against the Bengals (two when Jones got hurt in a 2003 game), but none since 2004. Suggs reported 23 days late to camp after the Ravens made him their franchise player.

"There is a huge difference there if Ed Reed isn't in the middle of the field," The Scout says. "Utecht is the kind of player that gives Palmer a lift because he can be a Dallas Clark-type of guy in that you can line him up in a a lot of different places and use him n the slot."

"Yeah, there will be some rust I'm sure," The Chief says. "But those guys have been together for five years. I don't see that being a huge problem. They've got to protect him, but I think they'll be able to rely on being together so long."

Zimmer is expected to blitz incessantly, but he says he knows the Ravens will do whatever they can to protect Flacco. His first priority is stopping the run, which he says is the best thing that came out of the preseason. But they'll probably have to do it against a stable of three backs that includes 260-pound fullback Le'Ron McClain when former Bengals fullback Lorenzo Neal checks into the game.

"Rice is a between-the-tackles guy, but he's got some pretty good burst," The Scout says. "That's why it looked like his stock rose leading up to the draft (where he went in the second round)."

"Their offensive line isn't what it was," The Guru says. "I like what I saw from Zimmer in the preseason with them. They're more aggressive, they play faster to the ball. He's a hell of a defensive coordinator so I think you have to say they're going to be better on defense."

While White has to do a better job in coverage, the one thing he has to do is keep hitting the way he hit in the preseason. A big thing against the Ravens is matching their physicality and swagger, and White can bring his share of hitting to this rivalry.

Simmons also noted that during the offseason the Ravens signed linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, the NFC's two-time special teams Pro Bowler.

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